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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

A Word from James: Sick

by Marilynn Chadwick

Is anyone among you sick? He should call in the church elders (the spiritual guides). And they should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name. (James 5:14 AMPC)

Sick. Worn out. Weighed down by sin? James prescribes prayer for life's troubles. Funny how our hearts turn to God when we're desperate. The most often-prayed prayer to reach heaven is probably, "Help!"

When my children were little, I remember feeling especially close to them when they were sick. In much the same way, I wonder if God feels near to us when we're in distress. James encourages us to cry out to God during our times of sickness. We’re also to ask the spiritual leaders to pray for our healing. The leaders are instructed to pray over the sick person, but they are also to anoint him or her with oil. The use of oil in this context is not strictly spiritual. The word translated "anoint" can also indicate a medicinal purpose. In other words, when someone is sick, prayer and medicine work together in the healing process.

I have a doctor friend who sees his role as part of the church's call to minister to the sick. I like the Amplified version's description of what happens to the sick person as a result of the church’s prayer: “And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15 AMPC).

I'm acquainted with a group of strong believers in India who plant churches in remote villages where medical care is scant. Grave illnesses often threaten the lives of villagers. If a doctor can be found—a rarity in itself—the medical treatments often fail. Villagers cry out to any number of countless Indian gods, to no avail.

Finally, in desperation, villagers often call upon one of these church planters, to pray for their dying loved ones. Time and time again God has miraculously healed the sick in response to prayer. The result? Entire villages have put their trust in Jesus Christ, the “one true God who heals!”

But notice the second part of James 5:15. Tucked in, almost as an afterthought, James reminds us that if the person being prayed for has sinned, he will not only be healed, but also forgiven. Indian believers are amazed when they realize the one true God who heals the sick also forgives their sins. What a joy for those long held captive by generations of fear! And what joy for us to be reminded today that we can come to God in prayer—trusting his Son to save us, heal us, and set us free from our sins. Prayer is powerful stuff!

Lord, when I am sick or burdened, don't let me struggle alone. Remind me to ask others to pray for me, to lift my arms when I am weak, and to intercede for forgiveness when I sin. Help me to realize the connection we share as members of the body of Christ. Together, let us experience even greater power in our prayers!

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